Now, I’m not suggesting that Carr and Claiborne are no better than Newman and Jenkins at this point in time. To the point, the issue is the fact that Jones believed that new cornerbacks, heavily marginalized in today’s pass-happy NFL, were the key to a better defense.
Taking a quick glance at the Dallas trenches tells you all you need to know about where this team is right now, on both sides of the ball. Playing “Monday morning quarterback” is always an exercise in futility, but sometimes it’s just so easy—and glaring.
Jones lost his way on the defensive line by ignoring the fact that former Dallas defensive lineman Jay Ratliff was not a good choice at nose guard in that 3-4 thing—and I don’t care about the Pro Bowls. Ratliff received those honors mainly because he did get a high number of sacks for a nose guard. It’s not like he ever scored double-digit sacks in a single season though. I maintain that Ratliff could have been one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL had the Cowboys ever landed a true, space-eating nose guard to help clog the middle that was pried open too often by so many double-teams against the dramatically undersized Ratliff.
Beyond Ratliff’s recent departure, you already know the other names along defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s new 4-3 front that are not or will not be on the field in 2013.
This is precisely why Dallas has the NFL’s worst defense, which obviously includes the worst passing defense.
Does this look very much different than the last few seasons?
Of course not. Dallas is sporting mediocrity at a rate that many aren’t even aware of, especially over the last few seasons.
Same problem is seen on the other side of the line. The Cowboys can’t run the ball and they are absolutely nothing to write home about in pass-protection. If not for the mobility and play-making of quarterback Tony Romo, this team might only have a couple of victories this season.
The 2012 free-agent signings of offensive guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings were deplorable, the latter of those two has already been released and the former apparently gets his starting job back only because his replacement, recently retired Brian Waters, is now done for the season—and possibly for good.
No, cornerbacks were not the answer.
On the contrary, young, blue-chip talent on the offensive line was and still is the answer for a Dallas roster that has plenty of corps veterans that are all passed the age of 30 and are only getting older.
It was believed that the Cowboys would focus entirely on the interior of both lines during the early rounds of the 2013 player selection meeting last spring. They grabbed a second or third round-caliber center with their first selection and didn’t bother with as many as one defensive lineman in any round.
Want to place bets on what direction Dallas takes in next year’s draft? Forget big money spent on free agents again because there won’t be much, if any.
The good news is that the Cowboys have good corners locked up for the future.
The bad news is that this franchise is probably a couple of years away from really cashing in on those investments.
Two sacks in three games, each losses, against quarterbacks like Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, Phillip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers and Matthew Stafford of Detroit simply won’t get it done.